Haines Junction and Beaver Creek

Haines Junction, YT

July 17th, 2002

We pulled out of Haines filled with trepidations from the horror stories we had heard of the road conditions up ahead. The day was clear and bright and the road smooth, for a while. After an hour or so we reached the Canadian Border. For once, customs did a thorough check on the interior of the trailer, even going under the bed. Some 150 miles or so later we pulled into Haines Junction none the worse for wear. This is a funny little town. It was created in 1942 as a base camp for the US Army Corps of Engineers who were connecting the Alcan Highway with Haines. At the only intersection in town stands a large sculpture (if you use your imagination) of a mountain with a man and a bunch of different animals all standing on it. It is painted in gaudy colors and dominates the area. We did find two churches with interesting construction. St. Christopher's log church looks like it was built to be a fort. The large timber walls give it that solid look of the early western log homes. The other one was more interesting: this church was built in 1954 by Father E. Morriset O.M.I., the first Catholic Priest to preach the gospel in the area. Resources were scarce and Father Morriset ingeniously converted an old Quonset hut, which had been used by the American Army during the construction of the Alaska Highway. To this he added a cross on the front and built a bell tower on the back. The church has the distinction of being the most photographed church in the Yukon. The next morning we struck out for Tok (rhymes with coke). Twenty-four miles out of town the pavement ran out and we were driving on a combination of fine gravel and dirt. This was interrupted with sections in which a pilot car guided us, and many others, through road equipment that was many times bigger then my rig. It was some of the worst road I had ever driven a rig on, to this point. Thirty-six miles out of town I got my official initiation to this wonderful State. A large rock, hurled by the tires of a speeding pickup, came sailing into the windshield. I didn't see where it hit but the resounding crack told me everything I didn’t want to know. Right under the mirror, I had a bulls-eye buttonhole in the outer glass. Add one new windshield to the cost when we get back. The border in this area was somewhat different. We saw the sign indicating that we were leaving Canada, but the American customs station was nowhere in sight. About a mile or so down the road and we saw the American Customs station. It seems that the locals got tired of lights flashing and sirens going off when people went through the customs station without stopping, so America moved the station down the road into an undeveloped area. This time, it was 'who are you?' and you can go, nothing more. The dust flying up off the gravel road was so thick at times that I had to slow to 20 to 30 miles a hour because I couldn't see what was in front of me. I quickly learned to drive slower than the car in front of me, allowing the cloud to dissipate between us. After several hours of this I had had all the fun I wanted and pulled off into a turnout to stretch my legs and relax my white knuckles. A trail led off to a ridge so I wandered down it for a while until I came to the edge of a valley. All around me was a large field of fireweed. This delightful purple flower got its name for being the first thing to return after a forest fire. It grows everywhere there is an opening. I could see for dozens of miles down into the valley. It was so quiet I could hear the bees buzzing from fireweed to fireweed. (We would find out later that they actually make the fireweed flower into a syrup and jelly). A serene lake stretched out before me bordered by bright green swamp grass. This lead back to the Spruce forest which covered the hills and further out the mountains. It was the most serene and peaceful place I had been in for a while. When Laura joined me, we sat on a small outcrop and just absorbed the surroundings. "This is why I came to Alaska." I thought. There would be many more scenes like this one along the way, but it was needed now and will remain my most favorite place for a while. Some 150 miles down the road we pulled into Beaver Creek and took a place for the night. There may have been all kinds of interesting things there but I just wasn't interested. It was food and bed, and off and running in the morning.

***THE END***